Melody Teh


Confessions of an online dater

Confessions of an online dater

More and more of us are dating online these days and there are more and more success stories. Enticing as these may be, online dating requires persistence, patience and resilience. Not to mention a bit of know-how and not taking it too seriously.

I’ve learned a lot about online dating by trial and error in the past few months. (Of course these are from a woman’s point – I expect men would have much to add).

1.      Read between the profile lines. There are a lot of clues in a profile. I read somewhere that no man is actually 5’10”. It turns out that online most average/short men inflate their height (I’m 5’6” and, in flats, I tower over some allegedly 5’8” men). And men deflate their weight with average usually meaning overweight. Activities and interests may mean “would like to” or “did once”, well-travelled can mean European trip in his twenties and semi-explicit details like tactile, sensual and love cuddles are as silly as wanting someone “with chemistry” (which surely comes from mutual attraction rather than an attribute). Look for good spelling and someone who has something interesting to say (but less is more).

2.      Beware the separated man. After a few dates with a “separated” man all hell broke loose when his ex discovered he was seeing me. I thought this was an aberration until exactly the same thing happened with another man a few months later. Either rule out separated men or, at the very least, ask “how separated are you?” 

3.      Take photos seriously. It’s not always feasible, let alone desirable, to have fabulous professional quality photos. However, the old adage “a picture is worth a thousand words” is very true when it comes to online profile photos. Many profile photos are undated/outdated. Recent photos count! I experimented with my primary photo: an everyday one got a trickle of responses whereas a moderately alluring one (taken for fun by one of my kids on a recent family holiday) resulted in a deluge of “kisses” and emails. I was soon in the “Top 100” which in turn generated even more interest.

4.      Location matters. Where someone chooses to live tells you something about him. Also, even though love may conquer all, 50km can become logistically impossible especially for mature age daters.

5.      Age shouldn’t matter but… there’s no denying most men want younger women. This leaves us 60-something women sought after by mostly 70-something men. Whilst some 70-something men are no doubt in great form, a 10 year age gap often brings with it health and other issues. One 65 year old I enjoyed dating for a while kept telling me how much happier he was dating me – someone “his age” vs his 45 year old ex – until it felt like he was trying to convince himself not me.

6.      If in doubt, say no. In the early stages of online dating, kisses are flattering and it’s tempting to send a yes reply. If there are obvious red flags at the outset it’s unlikely they will disappear. Nonetheless, be polite and respond kindly. Also, remember it’s a numbers game so don’t be too restrictive in your requirements in the early stages. I like the analogy that online dating is like fishing and you need to “cast a net” not “fish with a rod” to be successful. Remember that with online dating you know a lot of details about him up front which is the opposite of meeting someone in another setting and clicking regardless of their height, weight, number of children, favourite movie etc!

7.      Email contact. Initial emails are an important way to find out a bit more about the real person behind the profile. Some men want to email a lot others quickly request an exchange of phone numbers and a chat. In my experience, after more than two to three emails a pen pal situation develops and, unless that’s what you want, this becomes time consuming. I’ve experienced emailers disappearing (did they really even exist?) and sometimes it’s obvious after a couple of emails that there’s no point going the next step. If the latter, be polite even if it’s to say “no, thank you” and wish him well.

8.      Phone chat. You can tell a lot from what someone says and how he says it. It may be old fashioned, but I prefer him to call me first and it’s polite (and practical) to check first by text if the timing suits. Best to keep calls to less than half an hour – if it’s going well, suggest a meeting to continue the conversation.

9.      Coffee. If it gets this far (phew!), do think of this as a meet and greet rather than a date. And best to have low expectations even if you think you’ve got to know him a bit. Many a time I came away disappointed. More often than not, the man talked endlessly which is boring and frustrating. I am a woman who has children, a successful career, an interesting life… yet a man who asks questions and listens is a rare gem. This turn off is usually followed by him saying he really enjoyed my company and let’s meet again. No thanks! Always make this meeting for an hour so it’s easy to get away elegantly. If it mutually went well, then there’s…

10.   The first date. The first date is in reality a second interview. You can like someone more the second time you meet (fewer nerves maybe?) or less (the benefit of the doubt turns into a no). An activity (such as a walk or a meal) that will give you time to talk is best. Keep things fair and pay your share unless it’s obvious that there will be another meeting in which case you can get it next time.

And there’s more. Sadly, no matter how perfect he may seem initially or how strong the chemistry, it can take many weeks of dating to get to know him better. Even though you might feel you’ve found your needle in the haystack, once you start to peel away the layers you can be disappointed. Be prepared to take it slowly, be patient and don’t decide too easily or too quickly.

The result of my online dating? Kisses, emails, phone chats, lots of coffees, a number of dates – and ultimately some really interesting male friends. I can’t report my own success story just yet but it’s been fun and interesting. Time will tell!

Photo is a stock image. 

Related links:

What to expect on your first date

5 surprising ways to better communicate with your partner

8 relationship myths (and why they’re wrong)